Dubai World Cup
As Ed DeRosa writes today in a piece about the importance of sanctuaries such as Old Friends, Joe Drape’s reporting on TRF has made the discussion about providing for racehoses when their careers end more public. It also seems to have made the conversation more urgent. The situations aren’t quite analogous, but there’s something reminiscent of the safety debate that followed Eight Belles’ death in the fresh attention on the retirement and rescue issue, a sense that racing has to come up with a solution to a problem that hasn’t been neglected — the work of hundreds of organizations attests to that — but is complex and will probably take collective action to solve. “The only chance that something good can come out of this mess is if this turns out to be a watershed moment in horse racing,” writes Bill Finley. He’s right.
Prepping for the Florida Derby, Dialed In worked four furlongs in :47.55 at Palm Meadows yesterday. Trainer Nick Zito, who said the colt “bounced” in his last race, “caught the final eighth in :11 flat.” Handicapper Mike Maloney calls Zito’s prospect one of three likely Kentucky Derby winners. “If he shows a decent finish in the FL Derby, even if not winning, I think he will be fine.”
Tomorrow is Dubai World Cup day, and Raceday 360 has an overview of every race. I wrote about the UAE Derby, a weak renewal this year, for the HRF Derby Prep alert, and only glancingly mentioned the remarkable entry of two Aidan O’Brien trained starters in the race, the first in six years. Like last year, I assumed that this year no UAE Derby finisher was likely for the Kentucky Derby — Sheikh Mohammed seems have given up on that path for Godolphin 3-year-olds after the disappointments of Regal Ransom and Desert Party in 2009 — but Alan Shuback proposes Coolmore could be using the race as a Derby prep for Master of Hounds or Alexander Pope. “It would be a large irony, indeed, if Magnier & Co. pulled a Kentucky Derby runner out of the UAE Derby hat in Sheikh Mohammed’s backyard.”
Sweet Ducky, recently sold and transferred to trainer Herman Brown, is apparently possible for Churchill Downs, though, if he runs big in the UAE Derby. “It would be tough to turn it down if he runs a great race.” That would certainly be an interesting move, considering the colt’s new ownership. Would Kentucky license Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, called by the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, “a Stalin of our times“?
Welcome to the bizarre, through-the-looking-glass world in which talented horses and their conflicted owners and trainers try to do business these days. As domestic prizes continue to contract, massive international purses still dangle on the distant horizons. Even the most timid practitioners of the Thoroughbred sport are tempted to fling inhibitions to the wind and fly to the far corners of the racing globe.
In five years, this trend won’t seem bizarre, but inevitable. We’re witnessing the emergence of an elite international racing circuit that runs from Royal Ascot to the Dubai World Cup, with stops in America, Australia, France, Hong Kong, and Japan on the schedule between.
From “Dubai is for flamingos,” Harpers, June 2009:
The Dubai World Cup, touted as the world’s richest horse race, goes on as scheduled. Each year on a Saturday in the spring, thousands of people descend upon this patch of grass in the desert to watch horses circle a magnificently fancy track. In the public section, where admission is free, the Sudanese, most of them northerners, turn out in the biggest numbers, followed by the Pakistanis, the Indians, and assorted others; together they partake of a Woodstock-sized group picnic. In what is referred to as the Apron View section, where tickets go for several thousand dirhams, droves of drunken expats, beet-colored from the sun and abundant booze, stumble about the lawns in pointy heels and hats shaped like birds and paisley suits and watch anything but the races. There is a champagne bar called The Bubble Lounge, a Style Arena in which an elaborate ladies’ fashion competition is staged, and much slurred enunciation and giddy gyration to very bad house music.
Call it Ibiza meets the Kentucky Derby with a dash of Royal Ascot …